Whilst casually flipping through my old copy of the 1929 New Catholic Dictionary, I looked up its entry for "Pope" and found an interesting little nugget. After a rather boiler-plate explanation of papal authority (universal, immediate, perpertual, etc.), it addresses the question of whether pontifical power is to be understood in an absolutist manner. After discussing the pope's practical dependence on the curia for his governance, the article answers the question in the negative:
"In no way, therefore, is the pope's exercise of power absolutist or arbitrary. Besides the check of his own conscience, he is guided by the spirit, practice, and tradition of the Church, its ancient statutes, customs, and precedents, its council; in a word, by strict consistency with its past and by a pious regard for its pastors and the faithful." (1)
Funny how this was just common knowledge in 1929.